The Parents Television Council filed an indecency complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against an episode of Survivor: Gabon that featured a brief glimpse of a contestant's penis.
The PTC encouraged its members to follow suit and file their own complaints. CBS countered that it was both fleeting and inadvertent.
The PTC cited the Sept. 25 premiere of Survivor: Gabon, in which a race for immunity included the brief reveal. "The image was not obscured in any way," the group said. But it was also difficult to see unless a viewer was looking very closely, according to a clip of the show posted online.
“CBS’ decision to hide behind excuses that the incident was ‘fleeting’ and didn’t generate an immediate flood of complaints is the epitome of irresponsibly. The number of ‘fleeting’ penises we expect to see on broadcast television is zero," the PTC said.
"This was a completely unintentional, inadvertent and fleeting incident that was virtually undetectable when viewed in real-time," CBS said in a statement. "In the first 24 hours after the broadcast, before freeze-frame images were widely posted online, we received one viewer comment from the 13 million who watched the telecast."
The FCC's crackdown on fleeting nudity and swearing is in limbo at the moment due to court cases challenging both, but it was PTC complaints about the Super Bowl and other programming that helped to fuel the FCC’s stepped-up enforcement.
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.